Posted by: jeannineatkins | February 3, 2009

What I’m Reading: Bird by Zetta Elliot illustrated by Shadra Strickland

This picture book won a New Voices Award Honor from Lee and Low, for Zetta Elliott’s first picture book. The illustrator, Shadra Strickland, just won the John Steptoe Award for new talent. It’s a beautiful book about a boy using art to try to make sense of the deaths of his guiding-light grandfather and an older brother who escaped into drugs. A lot happens; we get a complicated family between these slim covers, and despite the bleakness, the boy’s love of the world shines through. The boy nicknamed Bird loves birds for their colors and flight. Strickland conveys the huge role of art in his life by using line drawings to show him drawing, and pulling out another world from what on the surface is happening around him, depicted in watercolors and gouache.

Zetta Ellitot’s just-out novel A Wish After Midnight, a time travel novel in which a fifteen girl goes from the present day to Civil War era Brooklyn, can be ordered from her website.



  1. I love the idea of the line drawings to show the drawing–I think my son would really connect with the art you’re describing. Another one to look at. 🙂

  2. BIRD
    Hey, Jeannine–thanks for the “shout-out”! I don’t know how people manage to read and review so many books–I’ve got 4 manuscripts and a long list of books to read–on top of the books I’m teaching! So I very much appreciate you taking the time to review BIRD. And do keep talking about gender, b/c women do seem to be underrepresented when award time rolls around, and these awards totally change an artist or author’s career trajectory…

  3. Re: BIRD
    Thanks! I swear some people have more time than others; well, I’m just someone who reads slowly and writes slowly so it just doesn’t leave much time for everything else.
    Yes, there’s some irony that although there are often more women on award committees, often they favor the men for the stickers; there are always favorites that get left out, and I don’t expect I’ll never read the Newbery, not that it isn’t worthy, just not my cup of tea, but I was very happy with this year’s ALA picks.

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